Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2018) and BC's Top Employers (2017):
- R.F. Binnie & Associates is an employee-owned and managed engineering firm that continues to grow, recently opening a new office in Calgary and increasing its full-time workforce by approximately 20% -- the firm lets everyone share in its success through profit-sharing and also offers generous referral bonuses for employees who recruit candidates from their personal networks (up to $5,000)
- R.F. Binnie & Associates supports employees who are new mothers with maternity leave top-up payments (to 90% of salary for 17 weeks) and offers the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence -- the company also provides a small top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (90% of salary for 2 weeks)
- In addition to the company's regular health benefits plan, R.F. Binnie & Associates offers a health spending account of up to $850 which can be used to top up existing levels of coverage
Mentorships help Binnie build for the future
For a junior employee, a mentor provides support, guidance, insight and encouragement based on years of experience. At R.F. Binnie & Associates, the relationship works both ways.
Strong mentoring relationships have helped Binnie to create a workplace that reflects the evolving priorities of its employees. In addition to educational allowances, fitness credits and transit allowances, for example, Binnie accommodates employees who prefer to commute to work by bicycle or who form car pools and who may not even own a vehicle.
"I learn so much from the people I mentor," says Sharon Goddard, Knowledge Leader and Senior Project Manager at the company's head office in Burnaby, B.C.
Founded in 1969, Binnie has earned a reputation for its high standards in civil engineering, surveying and project management services that it delivers to public and private-sector clients. An employee-owned firm, the company offers profit-sharing and referral bonuses of up to $5,000 for employees who recruit candidates from their personal networks.
"When I started my career," says Goddard, who joined Binnie in 2011 after working in the public sector for more than 20 years, "you almost took it for granted that everyone owned a car. Now, if employees have to make a site visit, we don't tell them they need a car. We have an arrangement so they can use a Binnie vehicle. We even raise this point in job interviews."
With 200 full- and part-time employees across six offices in B.C. and Alberta, Binnie has laid the groundwork for its future growth, in part, by responding to the changing priorities of its employees. But as Goddard observes, the company's growth will not come at the expense of its distinctive culture.
"With new employees, we look for fit," she says. "We can teach a person how to design or manage a project, but we can't teach personality or character." In fact, Goddard says, "we would rather leave a position open than hire the wrong person."
Binnie's search for individuals who fit into the firm's culture extends to university co-op programs. Every year the firm hires a small number of students for a work term while they complete their undergraduate degrees. And even these students receive the support of an experienced mentor in the company.
Paul Docherty, for example, learned from his mentors at Binnie about the intricacies of civil engineering as a co-op student at the University of British Columbia, and was surprised to discover that he had a passion for design. Since he joined the company full-time in 2015, Docherty has pursued his passion, working with municipal-government clients on local road rehabilitation, major road network upgrades, subdivisions and various other infrastructure projects while he pursues his professional engineering designation.
Since these projects involve complex design challenges, Docherty frequently turns to his mentors for advice and support.
"In designing projects we bring together stakeholders from government and private contractors, and we have to make sure we're fair to all parties," he says. "In tough situations, I can talk with my mentor, who can help me to handle all the information and all the different people involved."
As Docherty points out, mentoring at Binnie extends beyond immediate work-related issues. "We talk about everything from transferable skills and qualifications to tough situations involving design, communications and project management."
As one of 35 employee-owners of Binnie, Sharon Goddard appreciates the importance of strong mentoring relationships in supporting her firm's expansion.
"Younger people today have a much broader scope," she says. "They concern themselves much more with the quality of their job, and we need to keep pace. If we look after our people, they'll look after our clients."
Binnie builds champions
After 15 years with R.F. Binnie and Associates Ltd., Tom Rabey says he has learned the key to employee engagement — it's all about helping people make their mark.
"I tell our staff that every great idea needs a champion and all champions are welcome," says Rabey, Professional Services Group Manager for the Vancouver-based firm of civil engineering consultants. "So if something sounds like a good idea, take it and run with it. Be that champion. If you do, you will help shape our company. That kind of work environment keeps you interested, engaged and excited at the prospect of coming to work each morning."
Certainly, there is no shortage of opportunities at Binnie. Projects run the gamut from highway and bridge construction to building sports and recreation facilities to helping create entire municipal subdivisions.
Most of the projects are based in the B.C. communities where Binnie's employees work, live and play — another key attraction for both new recruits and veterans like
"There are few things that engage people more" says Rabey. "You take that extra amount of care and pride because you know the area and you may end up using the infrastructure you're helping to build. You want to make it the best it can be."
Binnie encourages longer-term, high-achieving employees to become shareholders; almost a quarter of full-time employees currently own shares.
"It's satisfying to be part of an employee-owned company," says Rabey. "It allows us to be a lot more dynamic, responsive and accountable."
Binnie offers a strong engineer-in-training (EIT) program which takes new university graduates and provides them with the on-the-job training and mentoring required to become accredited professional engineers.
Emma Yee, who graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2014, is at the midpoint of her EIT program.
Yee says she benefits from Binnie's supportive and collaborative work culture. "My division has people ranging in experience from a couple of years to many decades. They are always willing to share their knowledge and expertise with people like me."
As part of Binnie's formal mentoring program, Yee was paired up with a more senior engineer with whom she meets regularly.
"What I like is that they value people here," says Yee. "It's not just about billable hours or my work output. They care about helping me meet my career objectives while also growing as a person."
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- R.F. Binnie & Associates provides maternity leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 90% of salary for 17 weeks) as well as a short parental top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 90% of salary for 2 weeks) -- additionally, employees have the option to extend their leave into an unpaid leave of absence
- As part of the company's health benefits plan, R.F. Binnie & Associates provides a health spending account of up to $850 per year, allowing employees to top up coverage as needed
- R.F. Binnie & Associates lets everyone share in the fruits of their labour with profit-sharing and rewards employees who recruit candidates from their personal networks with referral bonuses of up to $1,400
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018):
- R.F. Binnie & Associates manages an Engineer-in-Training program to support the career advancement of its employees and facilitate professional accreditation -- the program includes mentoring, in-house training, and reimbursement for APEGBC membership dues and examination costs
- R.F. Binnie & Associates' Young Professionals Committee organizes professional development opportunities and social events such as mentoring relationships, career development and networking opportunities, participation in current industry events, and volunteer and fundraising activities -- the committee also acts as a liaison with human resources and senior management on suggestions to improve the organization
- R.F. Binnie & Associates organizes Fireside Chats to enable young professionals to interact directly with senior management and learn about the business and industry in an informal setting
As Binnie grows, so do its employees
If people ask what R.F. Binnie & Associates Ltd. does, Sharon Goddard, the company's Knowledge Leader & Senior Project Manager, sometimes says that Binnie helps to keep the traffic flowing smoothly in Vancouver.
While she says it with a smile, her description is not inaccurate. "We're the people who put the lines on the road in the right place and who make sure the water that comes out of your tap is clean," she says. "If we do our job, you don't have to think about it."
Founded in 1969, Binnie works with developers, municipalities and other private and public-sector clients, providing infrastructure engineering and related services in everything from landscape architecture and transportation engineering to the development of parks, sports and recreation facilities and sanitary sewer systems throughout Western Canada.
With a reputation for high standards in civil engineering, surveying and project management, Binnie employs 200 full- and part-time staff across six offices in B.C. and Alberta, and a few of those employees, like Ava Li, really do make sure that stoplights keep traffic moving smoothly.
As a Traffic Engineer in Binnie's Traffic Services Division, Li works with developers and municipalities to study and recommend approaches to parking, traffic flows and signal timing in new and expanding communities.
Li graduated in 2015 from the University of British Columbia with Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering. A former classmate told her about an opening at Binnie and suggested that she apply to the company for a position.
After learning more about the company's culture and work environment, she joined Binnie about a year later.
"We're a small division within the company, so it wasn't hard to integrate myself into the group," says Li, who is currently training for her professional engineering designation.
Li's integration has extended far beyond her division. This year her workmates elected her to be co-ordinator of Binnie's Young Professionals Committee (YPC). With two other elected employees, the YPC supports Binnie's growing staff of engineers and others with less than 10 years of experience at the company.
"We try to come up with ideas like monthly socials, so people can catch up with what others are doing, and professional development seminars and conferences, where we can meet with senior staff. We also just have fun," she adds.
In addition to activities organized by the YPC, Binnie also provides a structured mentoring program and educational allowances that encourage employees to take courses and seminars to further their career development.
As Binnie expands, it goes to great lengths to find employees who will grow with the company, but it's not an easy task. "If we see someone we want," says Sharon Goddard, "we'll hire the person even if we have no immediate position open. Occasionally we've had to choose between candidate A and candidate B, and we haven't been able to make the choice, so we've hired both of them. With exceptional results," she adds.
For Li, obtaining her licence as a professional engineer is her primary focus. But once a month, she meets with her staff manager to discuss her future options at the company.
"In our division, it's easy to wear many hats," she says. "You can be the engineer of record, the project engineer, the report writer. My manager will assign me to work in one area or another just to let me get a taste for it, but I'm still trying to figure out which I like more."